As cannabis dispensaries continue to emerge, the rules of how best to handle customers are still largely unwritten. Although many owners and employees will borrow from the bartender’s playbook on how best to attract and keep customers, cannabis is also a completely unique industry that comes with its own advantages and challenges. No matter how much a budtender knows about cannabis, even the most knowledgeable employee can fail to connect with a customer without the right level of training and ability to communicate. For an idea of how to best create and hold onto a reliable customer base in a rapidly growing industry, here are some tips that can help employees maximize their potential as budtenders.
1. Customer experience trumps customer service.
Although there are plenty of ways that cannabis differs from other industries, a golden rule of sales is still as important as ever: know the customer. While employees need to set the tone with a clean and orderly dispensary, they also need to be able to see from the customer’s perspective to complete the experience. With legal cannabis dispensaries only recently becoming possible, it’s crucial for budtenders to make sure that the customer experience feels completely legitimate and above-board, which is something that many dispensaries have struggled with. A well-run dispensary will make sure to have a courteous and knowledgeable employee at the front desk to encourage a welcoming environment, which will then set the budtenders up for success.
Even though that can seem like common sense, many dispensaries utilize a setup closer to a popular bar that has a bouncer checking IDs at the door. While it’s definitely a good thing to have a front desk employee who projects authority, the best cannabis dispensaries create a fun and friendly atmosphere from the moment a customer walks in the door. Before a customer even looks at a strain or a product, he or she should feel perfectly comfortable and on the way to having a positive experience. Appropriate customer service is also a must for any thriving dispensary, yet crafting the right experience and knowing what customers do and don’t want is how a dispensary can hone in on a consistent customer base. If any part of the transaction is uncomfortable or feels like a hassle, a customer is much more likely to shop around for a different dispensary.
2. Loyal customers That Buy Often
Being able to create and manage loyal customers is the type of thing that can make or break a dispensary. The good news is that there are many different ways to attracting loyalty, allowing a dispensary to get a little creative when it comes to turning the experience into regular clients. Whether dispensaries do giveaway games, loyalty cards or something completely unique, encouraging loyalty by engaging customers can be a game-changer that will pay off enormously down the road. A dispensary that can bring back even five percent of new clients can see a sizeable uptick in sales and attracting new customers can be up to 25 times more expensive than holding onto existing ones.
Not only do loyal customers tend to buy more often, a happy customer is also much more likely to recommend a dispensary to a friend with a consistently positive experience. Even if a customer only wants a small amount, sending them on their way happy can lead to long-term relationship that is great for both dispensary owners and employees.
3. It doesn’t matter what you know about the products if you can’t communicate well
No matter where your dispensary is, budtenders will find out quickly that many customers walk in with little to no knowledge of cannabis, which can be both a challenge and a tremendous opportunity for a budtender who knows how to communicate. By asking one or two basic questions about what a customer is looking for, an employee should be able to obtain a general idea of what a customer’s knowledge base is. If a customer is a beginner, a budtender who quickly rattles off the names and attributes of each strain will be overwhelming and can even be perceived as condescending for someone brand new to cannabis.
Instead of trying to impress a new customer with encyclopedic knowledge, a budtender is better served by keeping it simple and letting a customer guide the conversation, answering questions and providing pointers wherever necessary. On the other hand, if a customer is more experienced with cannabis and loves to talk shop, it should be fairly easy to pick up on and well-trained budtenders will have a chance to naturally showcase their own expertise. Regardless of the knowledge level of a customer, however, a good employee will be able to figure out the experience of the customer and communicate well enough to ensure the customer walks away with exactly what he or she is looking for.
4. Truly serving customers will boost sales substantially
The key to creating that coveted positive customer experience can be different for each dispensary, but a couple of tried and tested methods can be great starting points. Just like with grocery stores, customers walk into a dispensary expecting a loyalty program, which is why having a viable one is pretty much an elemental part of setting up shop. After all, roughly three out of four dispensary visitors want to see some sort of a rewards system, leaving little reason to fight the trend and plenty of incentive to come up with a creative idea to stand out from the crowd. The success or failure of a loyalty program will also largely rest in the hands of employees, which is why having ample budtender input can be an important part of the process.
How well a budtender showcases and describes the product will also be central to a dispensary’s success, as a little nuance and training can go a long way in making an impression on a customer. While an employee should project confidence about the quality of all products, no customer wants to hear that every flavor is the greatest cannabis that has ever been grown.
Instead of going over the top, being authentic about the products and creating an honest dialog can give an employee – and entire dispensary – much more credibility while encouraging customer loyalty. If a budtender can listen, communicate authentically and meet basic customer expectations, it’s much easier for a customer to hone in on the right product and head out with an experience worth repeating.
5. The only way to achieve the top four is effective budtender training
Even if keeping a light and fun atmosphere is vital to your dispensary, the right type of formal training for budtenders and the employees can help a dispensary seize its potential. While budtenders who know the products is obviously extremely important, employees who listen to customers and can adapt to different needs will give a dispensary a huge lift over the competition. Training should also be focused on understanding the customer’s point of view, helping ensure a positive experience for a wide range of different clients. With employees who can understand the customer and consistently offer a positive atmosphere, a dispensary can not only carve out a loyal customer base but see consistent expansion in sales growth. Considering the general high-quality level of product that is in most dispensaries, the key to a thriving dispensary is often a well-trained staff that understands how to put the customer experience first.